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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Terumah

"And tachash skins and shittim wood." (25:5)

Rashi says that the Mishkan, its vessels, and the priestly garments were made from thirteen types of raw materials. When we count the materials, however, we find that there were actually fifteen. The commentators offer a number of explanations to reconcile this disparity. Interestingly, Rashi questions the desert origin of two of these materials. Rashi specifically wonders how Bnei Yisrael were able to obtain the shittim wood and the tachash skins in the desert. He explains that Yaakov Avinu brought the shittim wood to Egypt for the sole purpose of using it in the future Mishkan. The tachash was a beautiful, multi-colored animal that existed only at that time and later became extinct. These two materials were different in the respect that the people did not actually bring them. They may have been gifts from Hashem Who created the tachash for this purpose. Alternatively, Yaakov Avinu might have bequeathed them.

Bearing this in mind, Horav David Shneur, Shlita, suggests that this is the underlying meaning supporting Rashi's count of thirteen materials. While there were actually fifteen materials, only thirteen of them were direct contributions of the people. The other two either came from Hashem or were handed down from their ancestors.

Horav Shneur infers from this pasuk that when we are about to create a Mishkan, we must consider the notion that no edifice can have viability if a single person believes that he alone is its initiator and builder. If an individual thinks this way, he falls prey to the devastating spiritual malady of, "It is my power and the strength of my hand that has made for me this army." Delusions of grandeur, arrogance and feelings of invincibility are among the most self-destructive attitudes. In building the House for Hashem -- or any edifice or other endeavor -- one should include three ingredients: his own portion, be it material or personal, his ancestor's portion, and Hashem's portion. These three components must be included, for they all play a vital role in the continued existence and success of the endeavor. This idea applies whether we are about to build a shul, a home, a school or any function we undertake. We must maintain our belief that only if Hashem sends His blessing will the endeavor succeed. We also supplement our personal endeavor by building upon the foundation which our ancestors laid for us, with their devotion to Yiddishkeit.

We have only to open our eyes to perceive that the success of the organizations that have been blessed with Siyata Dishmaya, Divine assistance, may be attributed to their dedication l'shem Shomayim, acting for the sake of Heaven. If one acts solely for the sake of sanctifying His Name, he will be accordingly blessed. Those who foolishly believe that their own power and strength effected their success will achieve only temporary fulfillment.

The area of z'chus Avos, merit from our ancestors, is also an integral component upon which to build. The Briach Ha'Tichon, middle bar, that extended through all of the beams of the Mishkan originated with Avraham Avinu, who planted it in Be'er Sheva. Yaakov replanted this tree, which eventually Bnei Yisrael took with them when they left Egypt. This beam miraculously wound itself around the corners through all of the beams. When the Mishkan was dismantled, it stood erect once again like the wooden beam that it was. Why was this "beam" zocheh? What merit did it have that it should be the prime catalyst for "holding up" the Mishkan? Obviously, it was the z'chus Avos, the ancestral heritage of Avraham Avinu and Yaakov Avinu that gave this beam unique qualities.

In comparison to the Batei Mikdash, the Mishkan was built with very little material expense. Yet, it was never destroyed; it never fell into the hands of our enemies. It was built by Moshe Rabbeinu, Betzalel, and our ancestors who were determined to infuse it with a legacy from the past. Neither the money nor the aesthetics alone will bring the Shechinah to rest in an abode. The incorporation of man and z'chus Avos will bring the third component - Hashem. When a chasan says to the kallah, "K'das Moshe v'Yisrael," according to the law of Moshe and Yisrael," he implores Hashem that his adhering to the laws passed on through the generations will render him worthy of having the Shechinah rest in his new home. Only after the Divine component is included in the marriage, will all the blessings which are conferred upon the chasan and kallah be fulfilled.

"And shittim wood." (25:5)

Rashi cites the Midrash that explains how Bnei Yisrael were able to secure shittim wood in the desert. These trees did not grow all over the wilderness. Yaakov Avinu had brought these cedars to Egypt. He "saw" that one day his descendants would leave Egypt and build a Mishkan which would require this type of wood for its construction. Let us take a moment to think about Yaakov's foresight. He prepared for his children's spiritual future. What about their material/physical existence? What did he provide for them? Nothing! Indeed, Bnei Yisrael are lauded for following Hashem into the desert, trusting in Him for sustenance and relying on Him for their physical needs.

Horav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, zl, derives a profound lesson from here regarding the Torah's perspective in distinguishing between spiritual and physical needs. In regard to spiritual needs, concerning building a Mishkan or any edifice that serves a spiritual function, one should not rely on a miracle. He must go out and act, doing whatever is in his power to create a m'kom kedushah that will inspire himself and others with spiritual ascendancy. When it comes to material necessities, however, one should be bote'ach b'Hashem, trust in the Almighty, that He will sustain, support and provide for his needs. Yaakov Avinu concerned himself with the spiritual needs of his descendants. For the fulfillment of their physical needs, he relied upon Hashem.

"And they shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell among them." (25:8)

The Midrash tells us that when Moshe was commanded to build a Sanctuary for Hashem, he trembled and asked, "How can a man make a house for G-d if even the heavens cannot contain You?" Hashem responded, "I do not ask them to make anything commensurate with My capacity. I ask of them only that they build in accordance with their own capacity." The words of the Midrash, are "according to their own unique abilities." They must attain their own potential - theirs and not another's! When Hashem asked Moshe to sacrifice upon the Mizbayach, Moshe asked, "If all the animals in the world were assembled would that then be considered a fitting enough sacrifice to You?" Hashem responded, "It is not as you think, for Me one lamb a day will suffice, for the rich man an ox and for the poor man a sheep." But if a rich man brings that which is fitting for a poor man to offer, it is a desecration

Horav Moshe Swift, zl, claims that herein lies the lesson of the parsha. Every man must act in accordance with his own ability and capacity. If the rich man gives tzeddakah like a poor man, he profanes the mitzvah. If one has the ability to be an active participant in the Jewish community and instead he is passive, he degrades both himself and Judaism. If one exchanges attending a shiur, Torah study class, for a sports event or any other form of media entertainment, he has failed to execute his duty.

In order to bring the Shechinah into our midst, we must do our part by maximizing our potential. Whatever our ability, we must demonstrate a proclivity to go "all the way" in serving Hashem. When we reorganize our priorities in accordance with the will of Hashem, we will succeed in having the Shechinah reside among us.

"And they shall make an ark of shittim wood... and you shall plate it with pure gold, from inside and out shall you plate." (25:10,11)

In the Talmud Yuma 72b Chazal emphasize that one must cultivate an inner purity. They derive this from the Aron Ha'Kodesh, the symbol of Torah. It was to be plated with pure gold, inside and out. Chazal infer from this pasuk that "any talmid chacham, Torah scholar, whose inner essence is not in consonance with his outward purity/appearance can not justifiably be considered a talmid chacham. One must be "tocho k'baro," maintain a symmetry between his essence and the image he projects. All too often, we focus upon our external image and the impression we make upon others, while we seek to conceal our inner faults and deficiencies.

We may question Chazal's source, the Aron Ha'Kodesh. If one's inner self must be coordinated with the personality he projects outward, why was wood used in the Aron altogether? Should it not have been fashioned completely out of gold? Horav Yosef Leib Bloch, zl, suggests an insightful explanation which takes human nature into account. Regardless of his ability to attain and achieve spiritual distinction, man must reckon with his physical dimension. We must note that we are a composite of both physical and spiritual elements. It is impossible to totally divorce ourselves from our physical component with the desires that accompany it. Consequently, the inner essence and its metaphor, the inner section of the Aron Ha'Kodesh, cannot consist entirely of gold. We must make room for wood, which symbolizes man's human instinct and personality.

Why is wood the material that serves as a metaphor for the human component? We suggest that wood is a natural material that grows from the ground. It symbolizes growth and development. Hence, the lesson is that even the physical aspect of man can serve a higher potential. Under the influence of the gold/spritual dimension, one can sanctify his physical self, using it as a vehicle with which to reach greater spiritual heights.

What actually is the meaning of "tocho k'baro"? What transforms a talmid chacham into an inferior person? Horav Avraham Grodzensky, zl, offers a remarkable insight into the meaning of inconsistency within a Torah scholar. One does not have to sin excessively to be inconsistent. It is possible for one to study Torah with intensity and still be considered corrupt. A Torah scholar must be in total harmony with himself so that he performs all his actions in accordance with the Torah. His actions/deeds must be in consonance with his level of Torah scholarship, in congruence with his acquired wisdom and stature. Any form of evil or inconsistency is viewed as unsuitable to his essential character. The litmus test of a talmid chacham is whether his heart acts in concert with his good deeds, whether his outward actions truly reflects them in consciousness. One's internal perspective, motivation and intentions must be in harmony with his outward appearance. To have a sterling reputation for scholarship and erudition, while one's inner motivation is not absolutely good, is considered an inconsistency. If one's deeds do not emanate from a source of truth, if they do not reflect the feelings of his inner heart, then they are false. Such a scholar is not a Torah scholar.

The Torah scholar must be totally symmetrical, his good deeds emanating from the heart with an emes, truth. Otherwise, while they are not considered aveiros, they are blemished mitzvos. They do not reflect the truth, indicating, therefore, that the individual is not "tocho k'baro."


1. How many terumos were there in the Mishkan?

2. A) How many Avnei Shoham were there? B) How many Avnei Milluim were there?

3. What was the distance between the Badim on the Aron?

4. Which one of the Klei Ha'Mishkan was beaten out of one large block of gold?

5. Which three of the Klei Ha'Mishkan had a gold crown around it?

6. How many branches, ornamental cups, knobs and flowers did the Menorah contain altogether?

7. How many coverings did the Mishkan have and of what did they consist?

8. What was the length of the Mishkan?

9. How many silver Adanim were there?

  1. How many Badim were necessary for carrying the various Klei Ha'Mishkan?


1. Three.

2. A Two. B. Twelve.

3. 2.5 amos

4. Menorah.

5. Aron, Shulchan and Mizbayach Ha'Zahav.

6. 49.

7. Chazal dispute whether there were three or four coverings. The first cover consisted of the ten curtains of linen and wool. The second covering was made of curtains made of goat's hair. The third covering is the one which is disputed. The point of contention is whether the covering of the Mishkan was composed of two skins - red ram skins and tachash skins -- or the tachash skin was placed above the first three, making a total of four skins.

8. 30 amos.

9. 100

10. Eight - two for the Aron, two for the Shulchan, two for the Mizbayach Ha'Zahav and two for the Mizbayach ha'Nechoshes.

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